Sweating Blood

Being in Holy Week has made me think more on Jesus moments in the garden during prayer. I could not even begin to work through the theological debates surrounding Jesus prayer in the garden, and that is not my goal in this post. In these moments we see a beautiful moment in Jesus where he is legitimately facing the weight of the burden he is beginning to carry.

The pressure is enormous. This is a powerful moment. This has been the moment on my mind this past week. It has not stuck out to me for its theological conundrums of Jesus asking for the cup to pass him. It is not even primarily from the fact that he willingly chooses to follow God’s will. It is the humanity to it all the has captivated me.

In this moment I am struck with the reality of it being ok to recognize that hardship exists. Scripture says Jesus was sweating great drops of blood. This is what the world would call weakness. Some would even say fearful. Can Jesus even be afraid? Is that really a thing? Those questions have been running through my head. What really is fear though? We treat it in a negative context because it is often something that controls our actions and behavior. This is an obvious problem, but should that deny us the right to acknowledge when things are difficult?

I have felt surrounded at times over the past few weeks to be encouraged to ignore how difficult things are. Don’t pay attention to the burning building because God is watching out for you. Here is the thing, it is true God is watching out for me. I have no reason to believe He will abandon me. However, it doesn’t change that I might be in a point in life where things are just difficult, maybe even unfair.

Jesus in the garden reminds us that it is ok to recognize when hardship is entering your life. Jesus felt the pain of what he was going to experience. He knew it would be unimaginable to anyone else. Yet he persevered. Anyone can walk into a burning building that they are forced to believe is not coming down. It is the one who runs into the inferno as the roof is collapsing that is showing true grit. Maybe you are reading this through a time of difficulty. Perhaps the world is telling you to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and move along. Maybe the ones saying that are even the people causing you difficulty. I would suggest a different piece of advice. Go into the garden and be transparent. Sweat drops of blood. Call out this period of life for what it is. Name it as a hardship. Once you do that you can look up and give it over to God. I think that is what Jesus has been teaching me through this moment in His life throughout this week. I can only give something up to God when I willingly acknowledge how painful it really is.

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More than a symbol

My faith is offensive. I sometimes wish we understood that more. What I believe is quite possibly the most offensive story this world has ever known. It is one of the ugliest, brutal, wrathful, violent, and painful stories that has ever been written. What I believe really is an offensive story.

It’s not too hard to realize this when you stop to think it over. It goes beyond believing a faith that says the world is wrong and everyone in it is deserving of eternal hell for their actions. The solution to the problem is offensive today. The solution was having God send down His only son to live a short life on earth that would result in one of the most gruesome ways to die that mankind has ever created. It was a death sentence that had the very purpose of torment, suffering, and pain for as long as possible before the last agonizing breath was taken. The solution was painted with blood. The solution was righteous judgment. It was a solution rooted in propitiation. It was a solution that required God to be appeased over our sin. It was a solution that was anything but free.

We often want to shy away from the offensiveness of the gospel. Even as believers we don’t want to escalate things too much. We shy away from the offensiveness of the gospel, because we don’t like the picture we get of God in those moments. What we see I God is a vengeful and vindictive God. Prone to a quick temper, harsh, and wrathful. We mistakenly see a God of hate and cruelty when we only look at the offensiveness of the gospel. We water things down in order to highlight God’s love and compassion. We say the crucifixion happened, but it was a symbol to show God’s love for us. We acknowledge there was a man nailed on the cross, but we refuse to really look at the brutality of it all. We limit the offensiveness and brutality of the cross in order to escalate the love of the cross. The truth is that diminishing the brutality also diminishes the love.

Let’s be brutally honest. The crucifixion feels like overkill. It is an event one would not even wish on their worst enemy. Why then would God feel our sin is deserving of such an act? Christ was not merely crucified, he was tortured. He received whippings that most other crucified victims would not receive before death. He was forced to carry his cross to his execution site facing the humiliation from the crowds. He felt each nail that pierced his flesh. He hung there on that cross gasping for breath. He would have to force himself upright in order to just get some air. Each time feeling those nail press against flesh and bone. He hung on the cross naked. There is a detail we rarely realize. Christ likely hung on that cross completely exposed. This was more than a symbol of love. This crucifixion was a necessity. Christ faced abandonment form God the father. Christ had taken on the sins of the world, and for that moment cried out to God over why He had forsaken him. We look at the brutality of the cross, and what we see is wrath.

That is not the whole of the story though. That wrath was intended for you and me. We were deserving of the pain and suffering. We are deserving of eternal torment in hell. We are deserving of God’s wrath. When we look at the brutality of that wrath, and realize we are spared form it then we become thoroughly overwhelmed at the full extent of God’s love.

God could not simply overlook our sin. He is too holy to simply write off our sin. Ignoring our sin and letting us into His kingdom anyway goes against His very nature. Sin is evil, and evil cannot even live in the presence of God. It was more than a symbol of love my friends. The crucifixion was a necessity. When I look at the brutality of the crucifixion I see just how much God loves me. He knew the solution that was needed. He was willing to pay the cost. This is why I shake my head at any who try and earn their way into heaven. Any who feel the crucifixion itself was not enough have not truly understood the brutality of the crucifixion. They fail to recognize its purpose.

God did not forgive us by dying for us. His death and resurrection are what made his forgiveness capable of sanctifying us. The debt needed to be paid. Christ’s brutal death made a way for me to live. Why would I ever want to diminish the love found in the gospel by diminishing the offensive nature of the gospel?

We are in the middle of Holy week. I will continue writing as this week progresses, but I have one simple challenge for you this week. Don’t turn a blind eye to the brutality found on the cross. For in this brutal death we find the greatest beauty, compassion, and dedication this world has ever known. It is the greatest love story the world has ever known, because it is the most brutal story the world has ever known.